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Female veterans find room for VA improvement

Female veterans find room for VA improvement
A Legionnaire discusses results of women veterans survey with Adrian Woolcock, whose consulting firm conducted the study for the Legion. Photo by Craig Roberts

Nearly 40 percent of female veterans surveyed by The American Legion about VA health care were dissatisfied with the screening process for military sexual trauma. Among those, 26 percent said they were “very dissatisfied” with the screening process, which mandates that all enrolled veterans are universally screened for military sexual trauma.

These and other findings from the Legion-sponsored survey were made available today to the media and to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The online survey was conducted Jan. 5-31 by ProSidian Consulting, LLC, based in North Carolina.t

During a press conference today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Legion officials and ProSidian staff explained results of the 67-question survey, which was taken by 3,012 female U.S. military veterans worldwide. The survey measured 10 attributes of service quality regarding VA – reliability, responsiveness, competence, access, courtesy, communication, credibility, security, tangibles and understanding the customer. The survey provided an assessment of specialized services for women at VA and wasn’t designed to present a reflection of general VA services that women receive, according to ProSidian.

Among the findings: one in three female VA health-care users reported they were dissatisfied with their most recent experience with VA’s Women Veterans Program Manager, who counsels female patients in the system. The survey suggests there is room for significant improvement for VA to provide gender-specific services such as PAP smears and mammograms. And 38 percent of the survey’s respondents said they wouldn’t use a VA doctor for a second opinion – even if that opinion was offered at no charge.

 “Research on this subject is important, yet it’s lacking,” said Verna Jones, director of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. “Women represent a vastly growing portion of U.S. veterans, comprising almost 20 percent of our armed forces and representing the fastest growing population of the VA health-care system.

“The results from this survey will be used to refine The American Legion’s outreach efforts (and) enhance its written and oral testimony to Congress and federal agencies. The survey results will also help identify unmet needs among women veterans and guide the development of strategic remedies.”

 The survey results provided insight about the gap between desired and actual performance of the VA health-care system for women using it. Of the 2,936 respondents who answered that specific question, 63 percent were enrolled in the VA health-care system. Of those, almost 30 percent were dissatisfied with the “reliability” of health care provided by the VA when compared to private health-care providers, and more than 30 percent were dissatisfied when they compared the “responsiveness” of VA to that of private health-care providers.

Approximately 30 percent of respondents reported that they were not allowed an appropriate amount of time with their provider to discuss their specific health-related issues, and 38 percent expressed at least some level of dissatisfaction when asked to compare the credibility of health care provided by VA against similar services provided by private practitioners. Eleven percent were “very dissatisfied.”

“We found in our survey about 66 percent of the women … not only registered for VA health-care service, but they also maintained their private health-care service,” said Adrian Woolcock, managing principal of ProSidian. “In addition in that subset, only 40 percent have ever used VA. The women veterans overall do know what their benefits are. It’s really a matter of focusing on improving the quality of service provided to women veterans.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • Almost 25 percent of the respondents rated the convenience of VA facilities locations as poor, indicating that gender-specific care is difficult to obtain for a significant number of women.
  • More than 25 percent of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with VA in security-related issues – especially the degree of sensitivity surrounding a patient’s personal information.
  • Approximately one-fourth of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with the level of competence demonstrated by VA health-care providers when compared to private practitioners.
  • Almost a quarter of the respondents gave VA a courtesy rating of less than positive.   

 

Demographic information from the survey indicated that 34.6 percent of respondents were between ages 52 and 61, while 24.9 percent were ages 42-51. Eighty percent were white. More than 68 percent were non-combat veterans; the highest percentage of combat veterans who responded (16 percent) served in Operations Iraqi or Enduring Freedom.

Some who took the survey contacted The American Legion to offer details about their responses. In those discussions, the women said they didn’t want aseparate VA health-care system for women; rather, they want the same quality health care that men receive but tailored to meet gender-specific needs. Others said they hesitate to use VA facilities because they can’t get child care on the days of their appointments. 

“Changes in culture take time, and VA is starting to change its approach dealing with women veterans,” American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster said. “The American Legion wants to help VA make this important transition. VA health care needs to be more reliable, responsive and competent in its treatment of women.”

Peter S. Gaytan, executive director of the Legion’s Washington office, gave a copy of the findings to Shinseki earlier in the day during the organization’s 51st Annual Washington Conference.

“To move into the future, we have to recognize the changing demographics of America’s veteran population,” Gaytan said. “The commitment of this organization is to take this information, stand side by side with the leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs, (and) say there’s a need to listen to what’s being said. The Legion can be the voice, we can also be the action, but we need buy-in from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the administration and the leadership in this country.”

To view the survey report, click here. http://www.legion.org/documents/legion/pdf/womens_veterans_survey_report...

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TWOCME3

March 29, 2011 - 3:28am

I commend the American Legion for standing up for woman vets. The 2,000,000 woman they are representing,some of them have children who can join the SAL or the Aux. The legion is a family with many different places a person can join. But...the spouse/hudband of a woman vet has no place. He can not join the Aux because he is the wrong sex. My husband and I met in the military and we were married while serving together 24 years ago. We served during the Cold War. After we both got out, I got called back in for Desert Storm and he didn't. I am a member or both the Legion and the Aux. My son is a member of the SAL. My daughter is a member of the Aux. But as a spouse he has no place. I can promise you that my husband went though the same trials and trubulations and any other military spouse while I was away. I am sure I am not the only woman vet facing this problem. Maybe more woman vets would join the Legion if there was a place for their spouses. Any thoughts??

vetcounselor

March 27, 2011 - 2:39pm

There are many fine Posts that treat ALL Veterans fairly and equally. EVERY Post is not guilty of discrimination ... but even 1 is 1 too many. There are Posts scattered across the Country that are still living in another era and have remained an 'old white guys club'... this must not be tolerated.

Dalton

March 26, 2011 - 7:01pm

Our Post will GLADLY accept Female Veterans. We are a small, rural Post and CAN'T get area Women Vets to join. Thats the flip side. Same thing goes for the minority side. It sounds as though EVERY American Legion Post is practicing this discrimination and its not true! Don't judge ALL by just a few. We honor ALL Vets.

vetcounselor

March 24, 2011 - 12:49pm

Why are some American Legion Posts allowed to discriminate against women and minority Vets. They are not able to join certain Posts because of their sex or color. Why does this occur in 2011?

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